Kolkata, April 16 (IANS) A division bench of the Calcutta High Court on Monday refused to interfere with a single bench order staying the West Bengal Panchayat election process, but asked the judge to hear the case on “fast track”.
As speculations on the possibility of the elections getting deferred did rounds, an angry Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee accused the CPI-M, Congress and the BJP – all who welcomed the order – of joining hands to “deliberately delay” the polls.
Disposing off an appeal filed by the ruling Trinamool Congress and the State Election Commission against the stay, the bench of Justice Biswanath Samaddar and Justice Arindam Mukherjee said it did not want to interfere with the case at this stage as it was already pending before the single bench.
The two judges returned the matter to the single bench of Justice Subrata Talukdar and asked it to hear the case on the fast track.
The matter will now be heard by the single judge bench at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.
Hitting out at the opposition, Banerjee said: “CPI-M, Congress and BJP are three brothers. They play one kind of role here and another kind of role in Delhi. Election is a democratic right. If they really believe in the people, why are they shying away from the election and trying to deliberately defer the polls by rising various political questions?”
She refused to comment on the court decision, but claimed government work was suffering due to the unwanted delay in the polling process.
Earlier in the day, Justice Talukdar extended by a day, till Tuesday, its stay on the election process, as the matter was slated to come up in the division bench later following the appeal moved by the Trinamool and the SEC.
He had, on Thursday, stayed the election process till April 16 on a petition by the Bharatiya Janata Party and asked the SEC to furnish by that date a comprehensive status report on the polls.
The SEC on Monday submitted the status report before the court.
On Monday, BJP representative Pratap Banerjee furnished a bond of Rs 5 lakh as fine imposed by the court on the party for “misrepresenting facts” by moving both the Supreme Court and the High Court on the same plea.
Justice Talukdar also permitted state Congress President Adhir Chowdhury to become a party in the case, overruling objections from Trinamool counsel Kalyan Banerjee.
The opposition parties have moved the court, accusing the ruling party of unleashing massive pre-poll violence against their party workers to prevent them from filing nominations for the polls ever since the process began on April 2.
The opposition parties were also aggrieved with the SEC after the poll panel withdrew its earlier order of extending the filing of nominations by a day, within a few hours of issuing the order last week.
Welcoming the court verdict, the BJP said they always had full faith in the Indian judiciary and described the decision “as one in favour of West Bengal’s democracy-loving people”.
“We have complete faith in the Indian constitution and the judiciary. I think the decision by the High Court to scrap the appeal of Trinamool Congress is in favour of the people of West Bengal. We welcome the verdict,” BJP leader Mukul Roy, who defected from Trinamool last year, said outside the court.
Trinamool counsel Kalyan Banerjee, however, refused to accept the verdict has gone against them and said they would continue their argument about the maintainability of the writ petitions filed by the opposition parties on Tuesday.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist, which had moved the Supreme Court seeking postponement of the election and removal of the SEC but was asked to raise the matter in the High Court, also welcomed the order.
“This order is not only about whether the BJP’s petition is maintainable or not. Our petition also deals with a number of vital constitutional issues, which the court has to deliberate on,” said CPI-M counsel in the single bench Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya.
Chowdhury, who held a day-long fast on Monday along with his party workers here to protest the pre-poll violence by Trinamool, claimed the High Court’s decision was a “moral victory” for the opposition parties and a defeat for the state government.
“Today’s verdict proves that the Panchayat polls in Bengal is not transparent. It is filled with controversies and marred by violence,” he added.